Front end problems

No, not my front end, the front end of my 95’Dodge 2500 pu. After 365,000+ miles on my old truck, I finally had the ball joints replaced. I bought the truck new off the lot and personally put 99% of those miles on the truck and therefore have a pretty good idea how it feels to drive it. Well after the ball joints and alignment, the truck wonders so badly between the lines that I’m afraid I’m going to be stopped for drunk driving. Thats not an exageration. The mechanic that performed the work backs up his work for a year, but he is clueless as to why this truck drives so badly now. Brainstorming together, we though it might be a control link wearing out, so we changed it. No Joy. Its still as bad as it was. I’m sure the steering box has play, but it never did this before the ball joints were replaced. Anyone have a clue?


Is there any consistent pattern to the wander (always left, always right, etc.), or is it random? Any correlation to the amount of crown in the road? When you turn the wheel to correct the wander, does the truck respond immediately, or is there some slack or play in the wheel before it responds? Is your mechanic sure that no other parts were damaged – or left disconnected – while replacing the ball joints? How is the alignment (has it been double checked)? Would anything have gone out of adjustment if not reassembled just the way it was before? Put the truck on a lift, and try to move each front tire around – any play? Any more or less play in the steering wheel with the tires off the ground? If this truck has power steering, was any of it disassembled (or otherwise touched) during the ball joint work? 365k miles is a lot to put on the original suspension parts – could something else have broken during the work? How are the tie rod ends? Bushing condition (in general)? Are these the same tires as before? Are they badly worn in any way? Any evidence of internal damage (e.g., separated belt)? The wheel lug nuts are tight enough? The wheel bearings weren’t disassembled for any reason (and loose), were they?

A lot of questions there, but maybe they’ll give someone an idea of where to proceed from there.

Here’s how to adjust the steering gear to see if it gets rid of the wandering.


My favorite trick is to look at all the suspensions components while the vehicle is on the ground and someone is turning the steering wheel back and forth. If anything is worn, you will see it immediately.

If your suspension uses concentric bolts or washers for adjusting the caster and camber, you may have one of those that the bolts can be adjusted to get the alignment in spec while static, but they go in the opposite direction that they are supposed to when the control arms go up and down. It takes a specialist with this type of suspension.

Another thing if the vehicle doesn’t start to wander when its cold, but wanders after a few minutes, you could have a blockage in the power steering box that causes the power steering fluid pressure to go up. That causes it to get hot and it will make the vehicle really wander badly, it can even make the vehicle dangerous to drive.

There sure are a lot of questions here, but they are good ones. I actually drove down the middle of the road last night on the way home to make sure the road crown wasn’t affecting the pull. It fro sure pulls to the right and the steering wheel is off center since the alignment. There seems to be more play in the steering than ever before. Normally when a vehicle is steered into a turn, the tires stay turned until you start to straighten out again. By simply releasing the steering wheel the vehicle automatically straightens out itself. Thats the way my truck used to be and this may be the best description of whats happening now. It stays turned and doesn’t straighten out. The alignment has been triple checked now that its developed this problem. The tires are fairly new but have been rotated and balanced. The steering gear box seems to have a lot of play but no more than before the ball joint replacement. I’ve visually inspected the tie rods with the mechanic when we had it on the rack for the third time and all appears to be good. And the Wheel bearings on this truck are a sealed unit in the wheel assembly. They were replaced last year and haven’t been disturbed since.